In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike revisit their 2019 goals. The guys check in to see if they are on pace with their 2019 goals as well as discuss some other topics including why remote companies grow slower.
Items mentioned in this episode:
Rob: In this episode of Startups for the Rest of Us, Mike and I revisit our 2019 goals. We pontificate on why remote companies might grow slower than collocated ones and we answer a couple of listener questions. This is Startups for the Rest of Us Episode 441.
Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at building, launching, and growing software products. Whether you’ve built your first product, or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.
Mike: And I’m Mike.
Rob: We’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. Where this week, sir?
Mike: I know that we’re only a couple of weeks out from MicroConf in Vegas. We are just in the process of selling MicroConf Europe tickets. That will be in the 20th to 22nd of October and it will be in Dubrovnik, Croatia again. Looking forward to that. It’ll be awesome and it’ll be back in the same location and one that has a fantastic view of the ocean.
Rob: Yup. I loved that hotel last year. I’m very much looking forward to that, October 22nd, 23rd, and 24th, is that right?
Mike: I believe so, yes. I have to look at the calendar.
Mike: That’s hard.
Rob: Go to Eventbrite and they’ll be on sale soon. That’s good. I’ve got to start looking for speakers for that here, soon.
One thing I wanted to throw out that I’ve been thinking about, there’s this book called Mindset. I believe it’s by Carol Dweck. Is that right? I wish there was some device that I could type a name of a book into and figure out who wrote it. But anyway, it’s about having a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. It’s about expanding your thinking and not being caught up with the same beliefs you had your whole life, as well as just believing that you can get better, and that you can change and do more.
I loved this book when I read it. When trying to instill growth mindsets into our children so they don’t go through life thinking, “Well, this is what I have. I’m like this the whole time and I can’t learn new things. Whatever I believed when I was 10 or whatever was instilled in me can’t change.” I really think that this runs true and there’s a parallel here with successful founders. Successful founders I know have growth mindset. They’re always trying to learn, they’re always trying to get better, and they’re always questioning their beliefs.
There are certain moral beliefs implicit that you probably never shared. There are beliefs that you shouldn’t. There are these other ones like, I remember talking about Split Testing in 2008. People were telling me like, “Oh, that’s tricking people. You’re tricking people.” That’s what internet marketers do and we don’t do that in Startups.
Let’s try and talk about email marketing in 2009–2010. It’s like, “Oh, you’re a spammer.” I’m talking about SEO to market a business. It’s like, “Yeah, it’s just gaming and Google. You should just write great content and you’ll rank.” I feel like those are fixed mindsets. Things like, “Well, this is bad and what I believe is going to hold true forever.” But the folks who are able to embrace those new things, if you’re able to do it quickly, and if you’re able to implement these things and take advantage of them, these are the founders that I see succeeding.
The reason I bring this up is there’s a constant ongoing flux of new ideas coming in and trends that come in and out of the whole startup scene. Part of my talk at MicroConf was about trends that I have observed over the past 14 years of being involved in the scene. One of which, of course, is the changing nature of funding, that being bootstrapped and venture-funded used to be this binary thing and then self-funding is introduced where [00:03:33] bank. That’s a little different than being bootstrapped. There’s taking a $100,000 from friends and family. You don’t have an institutional investor. How different is that?
Then, there’s obviously TinySeed, there’s a [00:03:45], and there’s other players. Technically, yes you took a dollar, so you have now taken funding but it’s not the same as the VC funding of 10, 15, and 20 years ago. It doesn’t come with the same negative things.
Some thoughts I’ve been doing and really going back to first principles of what is bootstrapping about? Is it bootstrapping? The reason that I bootstrap—I would assume for most of us—is we want the freedom to run our own company and we want to have purpose working on something interesting. We want to have healthy relationships with our families, not get a divorce, not never be around our kids. If we could do that, whether we take a little bit of money, don’t take any money, which is totally a viable thing, or take a lot of money or whatever, I guess I’ve always had those three goals, that freedom, purpose, and relationship. I think that funding has traditionally been at odds with those—10–15 years ago it would have been—but in my head, there are more shades of gray than perhaps has been the case in the past.
Mike: Part of those things that you just talked about are the change in definitions or understanding of specific pieces. For example, bootstrapping. What does bootstrapping mean? I think that question has come up a lot more recently because of things like TinySeed and [00:04:57]. What does it mean to be a bootstrapper? If you have a very specific or fixed view of that in your head, then it’s going to impact how you view taking money for your company or somebody else taking money for their company. I don’t think that a lot of those definitions are necessarily static because bootstrapping itself is relatively new. It’s really only become a household word in our circles in the last 10 or 15 years. Our circles didn’t even really exist 10 or 15 years ago.
The landscape itself is changing and those definitions are changing at the same time. It makes it difficult to not adjust with it. You’re going to be left behind if you can’t adjust your definitions or mindset along the way.
Rob: Yeah and that’s the thing. This is something that I’ve struggled with. I’m an engineer. I wrote code for decades. I do think in very binary and I used to think in very black and white terms. I used to be more opinionated, more fixed in my thoughts. The older I get and the more experienced I get, the more I realized that that has been a detriment to me in my career and the things that held me back early on were holding on to these ideals that I truly believed and later found out were not as black and white and not as “true” as I thought they were.
Anyway, that’s it. I’ve been thinking a lot about that and how to continue. It’s all up for me to continue to grow. I ask myself the question, “What things do I believe today that I will look back on five years and think that wasn’t correct or that was holding me back then?”
On a lighter note, did you know you can get a refund for audible books that you don’t like?
Mike: I did not know that.
Rob: This is crazy. Remember how I talked about how I’ve backed 185 kickstarters? The only thing worse than Kickstarter for me is Audible. I believe—I would have to look at the library—we have close to 500 audio books.
Rob: I’ve been a member for nine years. It’s nuts. Granted my kids listen to audio books. Sherry listens to them. We all share the same account. Hundreds and hundreds. That’s how I read. I don’t buy physical books. I really don’t buy books on Kindle. I have a lot of them. But I also will go and just try a book and if I don’t like it—I get two, three, or four chapters in—if it’s not doing for me what I thought it was doing, or if it’s too way academic, or just a crappy book, I bail on it. I’ve always, at least for the past 10 years, valued my time more than the cost of an audio book which runs around, let’s say, $10 with a membership.
I have a bunch of audio books that I haven’t listen to. If they’re good, I listen all the way through, I take notes, and I do all that stuff, but if they’re not, I bail on them. I’ve always hate that cost and I realized the other day, you can go back and just say, “Hey, I didn’t like the book.” I’m sure if you abuse this, they have some repercussions or something if you listen on every book and then return it or whatever, but it’s interesting. It’s buried to find it but I definitely went back. I looked to about a year. I went back and refund maybe seven or eight books that I only got a little bit into. I remember specifically why they were crappy. I got some extra credits and you know what I do with those credits?
Mike: You got more books?
Rob: I even [00:08:10] bought more books. Of course I did, Mike. It’s got a voice, I love the information, and learning new things. I’m listening to books everywhere, on topics anywhere from growing your business to negotiation. I have a book on Leonardo Da Vinci, one on World War II, one about dungeons and dragons, two about dungeons and dragons, I listen to Profit First based on a recommendation from Patrick Folly, and I have something about dealing with challenges mentally and blah-blah-blah. All of those won’t stand up to the scrutiny but I do like having a very plethora of books to be able to listen to based on the mood and goals I have at that time.
Mike: The only thing that shocks me about any of that is that you waited until you got the credit before going and buying more books.
Rob: No. It’s true. I didn’t actually spend all the credit.
Mike: You lied. You lied to thousands of people.
Rob: I did spend several of credits but yeah, I’m kind of backed up. I don’t have a big wish list, but I don’t tend to buy a lot of books until I’m ready. Right when I’m ready to listen to it then I’ll buy one or two more and then go into it. Right now, I’m a little overbought because of this credit glut that I experienced after the refund.
All that said, let’s talk about some 2019 goals. You and I make goals each year. I know they’re varied opinions on goals. I’ve always been a goal-driven person. I find that goals help me focus for the year. Not get shiny object syndrome, not wander off and do other crap because there are always more opportunities that are super interesting than I can ever do. The goals help keep me focused.
I sometimes do re-evaluate goals and say, “You know what? I screwed up when I made that goal in the last year. I shouldn’t do that this year. I should pivot the goal.” These are things that I spend a lot of time thinking about. I’ll try to do it on a retreat to make sure that I spend a day or two thinking about it and I really want to accomplish that in the next year. That’s a high-level thing that I then try to focus on the next 12 months.
With that said, we set some goals back in December. It is now second week of April. We kind of just passed the first quarter of our goals. You had two goals with a bunch of subpoints under that. It might be five or six. I had four goals. Why don’t you talk through your first one and let us know how you’re doing? This is either going to be the walk of shame or a celebratory episode where we can high five each other.
Mike: I think it’s going to be a walk between them because I didn’t exactly have a lot of heads-up on the particular piece of this podcast episode. I did not go back and take a look to see what exactly all these numbers looked like. I can give you a ballpark idea but probably not exact.
In terms of exercise, I know that at least halfway through the first quarter I was ahead, and then it really dropped off the end of the quarter as MicroConf got closer. I think that I’m close to what it should’ve been but I’m not absolutely sure.
Rob: You’re saying that you’re not sure if you’re on track for two times a week?
Mike: I think that it’s close. I mean they’re still a little ahead or a little behind but I’m not too far off. Twice a week would’ve been 25 times by the end of the quarter. I know that I was at least 15 or 20 at one point. There is one point where I was six or eight weeks ahead or something like that. I was doing very well but then as MicroConf got closer, I got busy and I stopped going to the gym. Now that MicroConf is over, I can start going back. I haven’t gone back and actually looked at the numbers. I think I’m on track, but I could be a little ahead or a little behind it. I’m not sure.
Rob: Yeah, give or take. You’re on track, it sounds like. I’m way behind. The winter decimated me. I’ve talked about this in the past. It started getting warm here a couple weeks ago. I actually started exercising. My first goal is three days of exercise a week. We’ve got six or seven inches of snow yesterday. It’s like halfway through April. It’s a train wreck for me so far. This is a good reminder. If I didn’t have this goal, I would just not care. I care because I have this goal. It is something that I need to change and is something that I want to be doing. I don’t enjoy exercises. It’s not something I’ve ever really want to on purpose, but they did something that I need to get motivated for. This is a friendly reminder that I’m walk of shaming with the exercise one and I need to figure out a way to do better with this.
Mike: The second one for my getting my health back on track was having a normal sleep schedule. Part of that involved using my CPAP machine at least five times a week and average usage of at least 6½ hours at night. I can say with absolute certainty that I am actually beating that if not exceeding it in a number of different ways. The app that I use for this only goes back, I think, about 30 days or so. I can get more data then, that if I needed to. But even over the last 30 days, the lowest I have on here is 5½ hours and that’s actually a lower one. Most of the rest of them are six plus. Some of them were highest. One of them on here is 9½. We got 10 hours and 40 minutes on here for one of them. I’m doing well on that one.
Rob: Very nice. My second one is about TinySeed. It’s to build it into the de facto brand when bootstrappers look for early-stage funding. The subpoint for that was first batch of founders chosen and they have a good chance of success, good progress, growth, and all that stuff. That’s by the end of the year.
Yes, I would say I’m on track for these. I think the de facto brand thing comes over time. Maybe it’s not a year but it’s kind of a long-term goal. The first batch of founders are on track. We wanted to have everybody chosen by MicroConf. We didn’t get that done but we are most of the way there. To be honest, the biggest hang up as per usual is legal rather than any actual conversations or phone calls or any of that. It’s just getting everything in, bullet points and the legal docs. I’m feeling good about this. This is my main thing that I’m working on. I would say on track for that.
Mike: My next one was to lose 15 pounds. Do we cue the audience’s laughter here now?
Rob: Not there.
Mike: No. I think after MicroConf, I actually gained eight pounds but then the day after or two days after, I was back down to a normal weight or whatever. I hadn’t really lost. I think this is all water weight. I really haven’t lost any measurable amount of weight at this point. I’ve got to work on that. I think that’ll go back to the exercise thing.
Rob: My third goal is to not panic when the stock market crashes. I don’t really think that’s happened. I mean it’s been a little up and down but there hasn’t been a crash. I don’t know yet, we’ll see. This one’s a little bit out of my hands but it’s just something nice to be in the back of my mind.
Mike: You can go out and buy a bottle of whiskey so that when it does crash then you can drink the whiskey and hopefully forget about the stock market.
Rob: Yup, indeed.
Mike: My next one was to have more regular and in-person social contact. I would say that I’m actually succeeding there. Still meeting up with a bunch of people once a week. Obviously, there is a massive injection of social contact at MicroConf, but yeah, I’m still meeting up with people. I wouldn’t say that this is in-person social contact, but I’m also meeting up with a group of people online, usually on Saturday evenings. But we’re going to take a break for a couple of weeks, then startup back again in May. It should be good.
Rob: Very nice. My fourth and final goal is to write or rewrite a book. I have not started on this nor I thought about it. It’s been because of MicroConf and TinySeed all happening here at the first of the year. I’m not on track to do this because I haven’t started it and it hasn’t been on my radar. I want to see once we get the batch chosen, we get things rolling, I want to see how my time works out and if I’m able to do this. As I said when we set this for the first time, writing another book aligns with the main thing I’m doing because writing another book about startups didn’t align with growing Drip. It didn’t align with growing HitTail but it does align with TinySeed. I have more of a reason or an excuse because I really want to do it. There’s more of an excuse to do it. I just got to figure out if I can carve out the time.
One thing that’ll hopefully help with that is, we actually just announced that we hired a program manager with TinySeed who’s going to help in the accelerator because there’s so much work to do. We hired Tracy Osborne formerly of Wedding Lovely. She’s spoke at MicroConf in 2016, did really good talk there. I’ve been a longtime fan and we’ve kept in touch. It just worked out really well for her to come and join us. She’s a developer, a designer, she’s written several books on design, and I believe in some development as well. She’s a public speaker. She’s got a lot of chops. I’m stoked to be working with her on this. That should help achieve, hopefully, a few of the goals on this list in terms of freeing up time, hopefully, for me to do something with the book as well as helping us grow TinySeed into that brand I was talking about.
Mike: Congratulations. It’ll be great to have her around.
Mike: My last one on here was for Bluetick. It was to establish attraction and move on to something else. The comments I had on here was that it’s fuzzy, not exactly what it should been, whether it should be revenue-target or customer-based. For this, I would say it has meandered the past couple of months. It’s probably largely for the same reasons that you have not gotten around to writing a book was because of MicroConf.
It was about a week or two before MicroConf. I was sitting down and working on stuff. I realized that basically the first three months of this year were basically taken up by MicroConf. I did very little else. It got me thinking about how much of my time is actually spent working Bluetick. My current estimate is between 30% and 40% of my time throughout the course of the year is spent working on Bluetick, whereas I previously thought it was closer to 100%. That’s totally not the case. It changes things in my mind more than anything else, but it’s just a perception or a recognition, I’ll say that I’m not really working on it full time. I’m working on it about a third of the time. That would probably explain how it meanders a little bit and how I’m not getting as much done on it sometimes than I feel like I should be.
Rob: That makes it tough. It’s hard to not have that focus. It’s almost like you’re basically working almost nights and weekends on it. You’re kind of doing it as a side project.
Mike: Yeah. That’s really what it is which in part explains why it can meander along if I’m not paying attention to it. It grows when I am. But if I’m only paying attention to it 30% of the time, it’s really not enough to offset turn out of it, to be perfectly honest. I don’t know. I have to give some more thought to that at exactly how to address that particular problem, but I’ll figure something out.
Rob: Indeed. We’ll there were a couple of other things that I want to talk about. We do have a couple of listener questions but something I thought was interesting from Patrick Campbell from ProfitWell spoke at MicroConf a few weeks ago. A couple of the things or slides that he put up that, I believe challenged people’s thinking, were from some research they have done. They have a lot recurring [00:19:44] SaaS companies using ProfitWell and he posted up two different slides. He posted several that agreed with our mindset of, like this one agrees with your internal monologue of how you believe the world to be.
But how about this one? This is from data. This is from 1800 respondents. The slide said, “Remote companies have considerably worst growth and retention than collocated companies.” The room went silent. He’s like, “I know. None of us want to hear this because we’re building remote companies. We want to build remote companies.” How does that make you feel? You instantly question the data. Whereas, seven of these different slides that had statements like this, some were totally in the MicroConf wheelhouse and totally agreed with bootstrapping and all that stuff, others were like this and they’ve challenged our thinking. This one in particular, he had 1800 respondents. The growth was between 21% and 29% slower for remote companies than it was for companies located in the same location.
The other one was companies with founders with a hobby grow slower. This is when the hobby takes 10 hours a week and the study was done four years in a row. It was 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. Each year, the growth was 10% or 12% slower with founders with a hobby.
It’s interesting. I want to back these around really quick. I don’t want to dispute the number because he asked these questions. They’re pretty rigorous company, I believe, in terms of data and research. What do you make of them? What are your thoughts on this?
Mike: I thought that the way he positioned these was to let people think about them and understand their default position on what their beliefs were about the data, whether it conflicted with their worldview. I found that more interesting than the actual data itself because I don’t have access to this data directly. It’s not stuff that I look at or actively thinking about. The data itself makes sense to me, but I don’t have anything to dispute it either way.
Remote companies have a worst growth of retention or founders with a hobby grow slower. That intuitively makes sense. The first one, remote companies having a worst growth rate and worst retention rate, I don’t know what he meant by collocated. Does that mean they have an office?
Rob: Just local companies having an office that are not remote.
Mike: I could see that because I think a lot of people have issues working remotely. Some people are just not wired that way. They can’t do it.
Rob: Yeah. I can see that the retention part of it makes a little bit of sense to me. When you’re working remotely, you don’t have as much of a connection to the people whereas if you cut to lunch with folks every day, there is more of that team or family depending on how you couch it. There’s that feel that really is different. I could see that one being causation because obviously, correlation is not causation. That’s where I look at. The fact that remote companies have considerably worst growth, it doesn’t mean that being remote causes worst growth.
Again, I’m not trying to challenge these numbers but I always thinking, most venture-funded companies, the VCs, do not want them to be remote. They frown on remote. I would hypothesize that most remote companies, the majority, are actually bootstrap companies—bootstrap, self-funded, whatever—not venture-backed, anything but venture-backed.
As a guess, I would also say that venture-backed companies tend to grow faster overall than bootstrap or self-funded companies. One, because that’s the mandate. For better or worse, it’s growth at all cost a lot of times. That’s the number one KPI, it’s growth, and that’s not necessarily with folks in our community. Number two, venture-funded companies tend to have just more money at their disposal. They can goose the growth almost; they can force the growth.
That was something that has gone through my head. Perhaps growth is not caused by them being remote but it’s one factor in that.
Mike: It seems to me like you’re trying to justify what those numbers are and kind of fit them into your mental model. I think that was one of the things that I took away from the talk is if there’s data, there’s two ways to approach it. One is this is factual and how do I relate to it? Or you trying to either pick it apart or trying to make sure that it doesn’t conflict with your worldview. I can see both ways on both of them. I think you can as well. But you’re trying to map these things to your mental model of why these things could be true even though you don’t necessarily want to go out and get funding, for example.
Rob: Totally. That’s the thing. Companies with founders with a hobby grow slower. Remote companies grow slower. It’s like, “So what?” When I come back to my values of freedom, purpose, and relationship, the growth is not one of those three core values. I did like having companies that grew in revenue because it led to a certain amount of success. It lends a bunch of things. I can impact more people; I can make more money. It led to more purpose and I can have more impact. There was just a bunch of stuff with it.
But frankly, if I’m going to have a hobby and I’m going to play my guitar, or I’m going to play tabletop games, or my hobby is hanging out with my kids, but I grow slower by 10%, 12%, or 15% a year, I’m actually okay with that. That’s a personal thing of mine.
While these things might say, “Oh my gosh,” it might make you rethink everything. It’s like we’re not in the venture-funded space, so, can we just have profitable businesses? Isn’t it that what Startups for The Rest Of Us and MicroConf our movement, or community, or whatever you want to call it, it’s kind of about it? Is it growth at all cost? It’s nothing we’ve ever espouse.
Frankly, just growth in general is good, it feels good, and it’s a goal. It should be a goal somewhere in your radar but it’s not the number one, end-all-be-all for me or for a lot of people, I think.
Mike: Yeah. Just growing headcount is not the major goal for most people that I know. Whereas you said, if for a VC or a funded company, it kind of is, to be honest. It would make sense that those types of companies would do that. Again, I think that even in just saying that or kind of going that part of the conversation, we’re really drawing attention to the fact that now we’re starting to try to pick apart the data and question, “Is this data accurate?” or, “How good is the data?” That’s exactly what I took away from Patrick’s talk, which was when you see data that conflicts with what you think, consider why that is.
Rob: Yeah. I don’t think it’s what we’re doing here. I wasn’t saying that data’s not correct. I was saying, let’s say this is correct. Am I okay with that? Am I okay with growing a business? Am I okay having a hobby? Yeah. That’s the beauty of being in control of my business is that I can make these decisions.
Mike: Yup. Totally.
Rob: Cool. Listener questions. Let’s dive-in. We have a voicemail from Josh Doody. It’s about metrics rules of thumb for B2C products.
Josh: Hey, Rob and Mike. It’s Josh Doody here, MicroConf attendee frequently. Also, I run my business at fearlesssalarynegotiation.com. I have a question that might be a little bit outside your wheelhouse, but I’d really love to get your perspective on some metrics and things for my business, as people who think about SaaS a lot.
I run a B2C business that has two sides. One side is coaching. That side’s great, I’ve done marketing, it works really well, that’s where I make most of my living. But then, I have a product side of my business that, again, is B2C mostly driven by organic search traffic on Google.
Really, what I’m struggling with is trying to figure out what are good metrics for my business? How do I know if I’m doing well in terms of converting email subscribers to customers, primarily, but even top-of-funnel, converting visitors to email subscribers? I use a sort of typical nurture campaign sales sequence-type funnel in my business.
I’m just curious if you could point me to some resources or other examples of folks who do B2C organic search-driven businesses online? I’m in the career space, salary negotiation, getting rated, and that sort of thing. We’re just really curious if you have any ideas from a SaaS perspective of what a good funnel from search visitors to converted customer at an info product would be? My products range from about $47 for some email templates going up to about $240 for the complete bundle, is what I call it.
Thanks so much for all you do for the Startups for the Rest of Us. Love the podcast, been listening since the beginning, and looking forward to what you guys think. Thanks for your time. Bye.
Rob: Mike, for a question like this, I’d like to take us out to our remote correspondent. He’s a growth expert. He does some B2B, but he does even more B2C. MicroConf speaker, TinySeed mentor, Taylor Hendricksen. Taylor, what are your thoughts for Josh?
Taylor: Hey, Rob and Mike. Thanks for having me on. Josh, thanks for submitting your question.
Before we jump in to the rule of the metrics on B2C products, I’d like to note that it really does differ greatly from business to business and product to product, depending on the few things. The two of the biggest ones being the purchase price, that you’re obviously selling the products for, and what kind of hunger towards the offer there is. Some things that are solved here [00:29:05] would generate much better returns in these metrics than other ones that really don’t have that.
Jumping in, there’s three of the rules of thumbs I’d like to go for in general B2C offers. For onsite opt-in rate for a website visitor using organic to an email opt-in, we like to see conversion rate of about 2%-3%. We see this as low; you could have nothing. Or as high is anywhere from 6%-7% if you have a really great offer dialed-in into that content.
After they are on your email list, a list-to-sale rate, we’ll purchase any of your products, let’s assume you have a 60-90 day sale cycle that you could go to. But a list-to-sale rate we would generally see about 1%-2% rate in there.
Lastly, the value per email subscriber. How much each email subscriber’s worth is around $3-$5 in the first 60-90 day period. That’s the one that differs the most. Depending on this, the financial niches can go up even higher and some of the more hobby niches can go lower.
A way to improve some of those metrics for your current setup, first off, for the opt-in rate, looking through some of your content, some of the content upgrades can definitely be improved, brought to attention more, maybe some more standout design around it. Specifically, it feels like the sour negotiation guide. I thought it was one of the best phrases you ranked for. It could be a tremendous opportunity to send people into that opt-in funnel. The current opt-ins you have were kind of just gray and not really that eye-catching.
How to improve the list of sale? This is something where it sounds like you already got a lot of the core pieces in place with the nurture sequence, the sales sequences, and stuff like that. I haven’t gone through your funnel yet but I’m sure those are pretty good. A way to boost that is to flash sales. It’s something I like to do and hopefully you can generate custom coupons with your setup. I’m not sure SendOwl can, which is the platform you’re using. Other platforms like Ontraport, ActiveCampaign, WooCommerce can do hacks to basically allow you to generate custom coupons for that user that expire in, let’s say, 24 hours. We like to push those. We’ve seen people have engaged maybe the business sales page, but they haven’t purchase yet. That’s one way to cheaply get them over the hump to make a purchase.
Last way to improve your value per email subscriber is after you gone to your main sales sequences, really link that out as long as you can. A good long-term content and an affiliate marketing sequence. After you pitch your products, go through all the good, relevant ones that you’d actually recommend to your audience just to increase that visitor value over time.
Another easy thing to add on that I didn’t see you have, is a push notification list. That’s a really easy thing to plug in. We’re seeing great opt-in rates that are really low friction ways to get that audience out and then you can actually set those automated campaigns to go out over time. Drip out the same content you normally would. Mix it with sales stuff.
In terms of resources to look for, these metrics as well as learning more how to improve those, the biggest one that comes to mind is just DigitalMarketer. Their Customer Value Ascension Journey is a good way to map that. Some of their tactics are a little bit more aggressive in terms of the rule of thumbs. They’ll say $1 per email subscriber per month, especially if you plan financial world, they can achieve this. They’re mailing pretty often and have very aggressive sales tactics within those emails.
I hope this was helpful. Back to you, Rob and Mike.
Rob: Thanks, Taylor, for your onsite commentary. Mike, anything to add?
Mike: No. That was fantastic. That was a great addition.
Rob: I know. This comes back to the whole thing of you and I have certain wheelhouses and experiences, but it’s so cool when we’re able to call on other people in the community.
Mike: Because this isn’t one of them.
Rob: Exactly. I would have had to go and research this. I had some B2C stuff way back in the day, but it was over a decade ago. It’s just not something that we would have. That was awesome for someone who, day-to-day, is doing a lot of B2C stuff. He also does some B2B but he’s one of the folks I know who’s really knee-deep in these stuff. Thanks for the question, Josh. I hope that was helpful. Thanks, Taylor, for chiming in on that.
Other question for the day comes to us from Justin Wolfe from positionhealth.co. He says, “Hey, guys. First off, thanks for the show. Very informative. I have a question about some case studies that we’ve produced for my company, Position Health, which provide real-time notifications whenever people enter or exit medical facilities. Right now, I’ve got a webpage where interested people can fill out a form to request to download the case study by entering their contact info. When people make this request, we sent it to them and add that person as a sales prospect.”
“My question is around indexing for the content in the case study. Right now, the case study isn’t published on our website, but it has lots of good content, and would probably help with making our website more findable in search engines. How would we go about making the case study’s content count towards our website in the SEO sense while still making it available by request only via our email opt-in? Thanks, and keep up the good work.”
What do you think, Mike?
Mike: There’s two things I can think of off the top of my head. The first one would be more related to SEO. I’ll say the second one first which is you could do paid ads for the content. That way, you’re essentially driving people to a landing page and you’re getting their email address. That’s not quite what you’re looking for. I think what you’re looking for is something along the lines of publishing some of the contents or a partial excerpt of it and then providing it as a download if you enter in your email address. Maybe give the title or maybe a brief synopsis of it, and then first couple of paragraphs of it or something like that, or maybe some images from it. They’re a little bit blurred out, so to speak. You can entice people using something like that. You can use excerpts from that content or from that case study around on your website in various places even in other content, use it as a content upgrade, and help capture email addresses using that.
Otherwise, if you are looking to expanding the amount of information that’s on your website, you could post it there as well. I get what you’re trying to do in terms of forcing people to download it. I didn’t mention it on our last podcast except where we talked specifically about case studies. But it’s possible you could get away with posting it for free and publicly to your website, and then also make it available in different places as something that people can just download. You put the content on the site and if you want the downloadable version of it you could say, “Okay, enter in your email address over here.” I don’t know. I have mixed feelings on how that’ll actually even work.
Rob: The last one that you said was the last one I was thinking about was basically if you have a blog or an article section or an essay section, then you put this in there as a text case study. When people land on that, then you say, “Hey, opt-in and get this epically formatted, amazing downloadable PDF thing of this. Plus, an audio version.” Frankly, that’s recording an audio version or something like that is super-fast and easy to do.
If you have just a landing page, whether it’s your homepage, or it’s a squeeze page, or it’s something you’re sending your ads to, and you’re saying, “Hey, I have this great case study and it has great content. Enter your email and download it here,” the odds of someone wandering over and digging through archives of your essays to find this one post that is the same content, is not that likely. That was my initial thought about it. Just offer it in two places as long as it’s not linked to from your header by the same name or linked to in your footer by the same name. It’s more of a section someone has to go to and search from. That’s what Google’s going to want to crawl. If you have these collections of things, then you have this group of content.
If your website is literally a homepage with an opt-in to get the case study, then just this one article off of it, that’s a little weird then. I don’t really know an easy way around that. Frankly, two pages is a thin side anyway. Google is probably not going to rank you for anything. You have to have more built out of that.
Once you get more built out, when you’re at 20, 30, 40 different pages on the site, that becomes easier to put it in the section, then Google index it—assuming they’re indexing your site—and then you rank accordingly.
I wouldn’t be too hung-up since it’s behind an email gate through this route that I can never publish it on my site to this other route because people will find it and then they won’t opt-in their email. It’s such a 5% use case that it wouldn’t be something I’d be particularly concerned about.
Mike: Well, Rob. I think that about wraps this up for today. If you have a question for us, you can call into our voicemail number at 888-801-9690. Or you can email it to us at email@example.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Outta Control by MoOt, used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for ‘startups’ and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for full transcript to each episode. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.
In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike set their goals for 2019 as well check in and rate how they did for their 2018 goals.
Items mentioned in this episode:
Rob: In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Mike and I talk about our goals for 2019. We also look back at our goals for 2018 and evaluate how well we did. This is Startups For The Rest Of Us Episode 423.
Welcome to Startups For The Rest Of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers, and entrepreneurs be awesome at building, launching, and growing software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.
Mike: And I’m Mike.
Rob: And we’re to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What of this week, sir?
Mike: Well, it’s the middle of December so I’m just kind of working on MicroConf sponsorships and scholarships at the moment. I was just having various conversations with people about different options with things that are a little bit different for a sponsorship option for MicroConf. There’s a few different options that are on there that also include the scholarships.
Last year we kind of quietly and under the radar offered 14 scholarships to people for Starter Edition. I’m looking to expand that this year and talking to various people about it. I’ve already got some people who’ve committed funds and already actually put the money in and started sponsoring those. That’s good to see and we’ll just kind of see where things shake out at the end of it. I kind of have a mental goal in mind but I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot by sharing it.
Rob: Sure and if someone was interested in either sponsoring either the conferences or offering a scholarship ticket to Starter, how do they get in touch with you?
Mike: They can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or I think email@example.com also works. Either one of those and if you’re interested in just sponsoring one individual scholarship option, there’s a link for that right on the sales page for the MicroConf Sales or you can go to microconf.com, click on the link to buy a ticket, and there’s an option there to just purchase an individual ticket. The terms of the sponsorships, there’s kind of a mechanism for purchasing more than just one or two tickets. I think it starts at four and goes up from there.
Rob: Yeah and I knew part of the scholarships. I mean, this is something you really spearheaded and you kind of came under the radar a couple of years ago, and then you really started pushing on this program last year. But it helps folks get to Starter who otherwise can’t afford to or they don’t have an expendable cash to get out there and it can really make a difference for someone. I know that we interviewed some folks with the kind of video interviews after the fact or during the conference to share with the person or company who would sponsor them. You and I looked through those and they were pretty meaningful and people were really impacted by the conference. I think it was a transformative experience for them. It’s nice to be able to offer something like that.
Mike: Yeah, definitely. What’s up with you this week?
Rob: Well, I’ve long had an LLC in California, obviously because that’s where I’ve been running my businesses and I just entered a process, I believe it’s going to get finalized this week, of transferring that LLC to Minnesota. There’s a bunch of reasons for doing this: (a) it’s cheaper to do business here, but (b) I had to have basically a kind of a PO Box or an accountant or whatever, you have to have an address in California that they could send stuff to. I don’t need to file tax returns in California anymore. Even just that, it’s like an extra tax return my accountant charges me several hundred bucks for.
It feels kind of a nice piece of closure for me and it’s also an opportunity to rename the thing because I can name it whatever I wanted. The name that I picked in 2007 does not resonate with me. I picked a name that was so broad and esoteric that I could put whatever I wanted under it. At first, it was like a consulting firm so it had the name ‘Group’ in it. It’s called The Numa Group. It was a consulting firm but then I just put a bunch of software products under it and put my part of MicroConf under it. I don’t particularly love the name anymore and the domain name I have for it is clunky. So I just kind of consolidate the thing. I renamed it to Start Small LLC.
Mike: Oh nice.
Rob: Yeah. It took me a while. I’m not good at naming stuff and I was like, “What is something that for me is timeless? That in 10 years, I’m going to think back and say that was a good call?” and it’s not just because it’s the title of my book, or part of the title but I just feel like it fits into so much. It tells my story in two words and it fits in with the MicroConf ethos. It just said so many things.
Anyway, that’s been kind of a fun, cathartic process of just moving everything here, like The Numa Group redirects to my robwalling.com site which I had redone. I’m just kind of getting rid of a bunch of cruft. The Numa Group site was a landing page that was outdated and I just kept saying, “Oh, I’m going to get back to that,” but why it even have a landing page? Why even have that anymore? The company is not important. Frankly, at this point, it’s kind of about robwalling.com and then about Tiny Seed. It’s my personal site and the business site and everything else in MicroConf, of course. Anyway, that’s kind of been the process.
Mike: Yeah, I can imagine that’s a real pain in the neck and it’s something you probably want to get taken cared of before December 31st because if you don’t, you’ll have a file taxes again in California the following year.
Rob: That’s exactly what I’m doing. The only other thing is I’ve been coming out of the woodwork a little more and doing some interviews and even wrote a Q&A piece for a software execute magazine. That will be out in a couple of months and I’ll probably mentioned that again when it comes out. Have you heard of Hacker Noon?
Rob: Dave, the guy emailed me from there and did a little-written interview with me. It was kinda fun. It took a lot of work. I forget how easy voice interviews are compared to written interviews. I know that you know this because of the Indie Hacker one you did last year or earlier this year and you’re like, “Yeah, I spent two days on it.” So much effort.
Mike: Yeah. It was way more effort to do those. I think people’s expectations are different as well if you’re talking versus if it’s written, it seems like it should be carefully crafted, say exactly what you mean, and not anything else. When people are listening to you, you have a lot more leeway, I think, because people understand that you’re talking off-the-cuff and it’s not heavily scripted thing when you’ve memorized ever question and every answer.
Rob: Yeah, that’s right, and it feels less prepared whereas writing, it feels like you need to rewrite it, reread it, edit it, and do all that, which is exactly what I did. It took me 2-3 hours to answer the questions. What was cool was some of the questions at Hacker Noon interview, ones that I’ve really never been asked, which is always fun to think through but it’s also time-consuming, and it’s peaked.
It’s kind of peaked productivity stuff. I had to do it in the morning. I couldn’t in the afternoon there. I would just been too tired to really hammer something out. Then I came back to revised it, updated it, and stuff. I feel like it turned into a really good interview. I haven’t done a written interview in probably five years just because of the time that it takes. I just turn them down. But I kind of wanted to do this one. We’ll be sure to link that up in the show notes.
This week, we are diving into our goals for 2019. But first, Mike, the walk of shame. We get to look back at our 2018 goals. Episode 372, just a short 50 or so, 51 episodes ago, it looks like. We talked about our 2018 goals. Why don’t you roll into your first one? Are we going to do a 1-5 scale of one we completely flubbed the goal and five is we completely nailed it?
Mike: Oh I figure we talking about 1-5 is like my goals versus your goals.
Rob: Oh, no. No, no. This is how well we carried them out.
Mike: Well, I’ve been quite honestly we could put one on pretty much every single one of mine. We could kind of shorten it. I’ll go through them but this last year was just absolutely atrocious.
Rob: Let’s do it. Let’s roll through all yours right now then.
Mike: Sure. You want me to go through all five of them then?
Rob: Oh yeah, the agony. Let’s read them in slow motion so everyone can watch a trainwreck.
Mike: The first one was actually a carry-over goal from the previous year, which was login at least 100 days of exercise the coming year, and I fell way, way short of that. I probably got to 25 or 30 and that was just about it. The second one was making Blue Tech profitable including my time, which has also not happened.
And then the other three, I think at least one or two of these, about two or three months in, maybe March or so we decided, “Hey, these just don’t even look realistic. We should just can these to begin with.” One of them was speaking at six plus conferences or events because the idea was that, at first I thought, “Okay, well this can be a way to market Blue Tech,” but at the same time, you really have to have the right audience for that kind of thing anyway, and it felt like more of a distraction than anything else. So, I ended up canning that one.
Then the other one, reading at least one business book every two weeks. That seem to me like it was also a distraction. It was like a consumption thing. I also cut back on podcast listening just because of the same thing. It will just take up mental overhead that I just didn’t want to have. Then the last one of that list was hiring someone to take over Blue Tech development, which kind of requires that Blue Tech become profitable. If that doesn’t happen then it’s hard to fund that. So yeah, I would say pretty much one on all of those.
Rob: What does that tell us? Is it were you doing other things that you would say were accomplishments that were outside of this? Was it a focus thing or was there a better priority that came up? Or do you think our goals are stupid? That’s another. Should we not set goals?
Mike: I think a lot of it had to do with lack of focus. By lack of focus, I don’t mean I’m working on one thing and then working on another. I mean literally lack of focus. Inability to focus. Because I wasn’t sleeping. I mean, I’ve been kind of suffering through this for the past several years, like I got on a CPAP machine a couple of months ago and that thing has been working fantastically. I’m actually sleeping now. But I went back and before this episode, I looked at the sleep blog that I’ve kept for this sleep therapist that I saw. I was up anywhere from 3-8 times a night and I was only getting anywhere from 4-6 hours of sleep. There were times when I would get 1½-2 hours of sleep a night so I felt fuzzy.
It’s hard to describe the difference that it may swing. I felt that way. Yesterday, for example, I woke up and I had a fantastic night of sleep. It’s a world of difference between being able to think straight and just kind of going through the motions and getting things done but not really able to focus on any one thing and feeling like you’re shifting back and forth but not making any real progress.
Rob: Yeah. It’s easy to get distracted and your thoughts are fleeting. In addition, I don’t know if this happens to everyone but when I only get a few hours sleep, I am actually super pessimistic and I tend to look like someone with depression. I don’t technically have it because it’s not over a long period of time. I will wake up and just be like, “Oh this is all just shit. None of this is going to work. Oh my gosh. Why am I even starting startups? I can’t do any of it.” That will be my inner self-talk and I’ll catch myself now and be like, “Dude, you’re really tired. You should just go to sleep.”
I know that’s not easy for you but that’s what my inner monologue will be on those days of like, “You’re going to be better off not working today.” But for you, it was happening everyday, right?
Mike: Yeah, even on the weekends, too. That was the worst part is, I was exhausted and I couldn’t get to sleep. When I did go to sleep, I didn’t realize also the time because I was trying all these different things to just get to sleep. Or I’ll move my bedtime back earlier and I’ll go to sleep, or try to go to bed at 10:00 or 10:30, turn off all electronics, don’t answer emails after 7:00 or 8:00 o’clock at night, just turn all that stuff off. It works to a slight degree but not enough and I couldn’t figure out why and it kept happening.
Of course, come to find out through the sleep study, like, “Oh, my body is waking me up multiple times a night because I stopped breathing.” You can’t change habits and fix that. It just doesn’t happen. It didn’t matter what I did. Nothing was working.
Rob: Yeah, and that’s tough and it’s frustrating. Obviously, five goal set and zero goals achieved. Health issues were a major impact on that. It’s interesting. Sherry talks about this, that a lot of mental health issues in general, like people with depression or ADHD or other stuff, one cause of those, not for everyone, but one cause is a lack of sleep. Once people stop being able to sleep full nights, their minds start doing weird things.
She also talks about there’s some research studies that talk about the quite a bit the angst of being a teenager, how you turn 13 and you get all angsty from 13 to 18 or whatever kind of the thing is in high school. A lot of that could very well be too just a lack of sleep. The kids at that age need about 10 or 11 hours and most kids do not get that much and they’re tired all the time and it leads to the sadness or whatever. I’m no expert on this, so I don’t want to talk, but Sherry has talked to me multiple times about this and especially with our kids, because a couple of our kids at different times, they have behavioral issues, they have focus issues, and one of the first things that we will get is sleep and exercise every time instead of trying to medicate or whatever.
I’m not anti-medication but it’s like the first two resorts every time Sherry is like, “How has he been sleeping?” and, “Is he getting out and getting 20 minutes of hustle, hard exercise?” Not a 20 minutes walk but 20 minutes of running around playing dodgeball a day. I think that it’s interesting and it can have a huge impact on your mood and your ability to focus, which then has a huge impact on your productivity.
Mike: Yeah. For me, it was that vicious cycle of not being able to sleep and then it also affects my ability to go to the gym. If I don’t go to the gym first thing in the morning, it’s just not going to happen because I get busy in other things getting in the way. Not being able to sleep has a direct impact on my willingness and ability to go to the gym. It just puts me in this vicious cycle where I don’t get to sleep, so I don’t go to the gym, so I don’t feel good in any way, shape, or form, and then I go to bed and I’m stressed out, exhausted, and tired. And then my mind is wandering even before I get to sleep so I can’t get to sleep. When I do sleep, my body just – I guess I’m assuming because it’s physical problems. I just got the sleep apnea that wakes me up.
All of it combined. It just doesn’t end and there is no way for me to kind of break the cycle until I found out what it really was. I knew I wasn’t sleeping but that was a symptom. It wasn’t the underlying problem.
Rob: And you have that machine for the past couple of months. Dude, how’s your progress? Has it been night and day? Not just how you feel because I know that you feel is night and day but are you making substantially more measurable progress since then?
Mike: Yes. I can point to different things that I’ve done in the past, like two months or so. In the past two months, I have probably made more progress than I have in the past 10 or 15. It is night and day but I’m cautiously optimistic about how things are going to turn out but obviously at this point, I feel it’s more about execution that anything else. But I still have to make sure that I crack down on those health issues and make sure that they don’t get in the way.
Now that I know what the problem is or problem was, then I can try to do things to address it. But before, I was trying all these different things because I didn’t know what was going to work or what wasn’t and how to get around it. I remember pushing off on the sleep study a while back for my doctor, and she’s like, “Have you ever thought about having this done?” and I was like, “Well, I have but I don’t really want to go through it and have nothing come out of it,” because last time I ended up going in, she recommended that I go for a blood work. She’s like, “Oh your platelet count’s low and let’s check this out.” I go and she referred me to this doctor, go through that, and then $400 worth of test later, the doctor tells me, “Well, you don’t have leukemia,” and I’m like, “I never thought I did. I don’t know why I’m here for that test.” It kind of pissed me off but what do you do? The doctor’s are really just trying to figure out what’s going on here and they do it by process of elimination.
Part of it’s maybe my own fault for not doing it sooner because she had recommended it in the past but at the same time, I didn’t really want to have that done just because I didn’t know how much it was going to cost. My insurance barely covered any of it. It cost me several thousand dollars for between the machine and the tests and everything else anyway.
Rob: In looking back on obviously these goals, you said five of them are ones. This is a weird question but is there something that you’d accomplished in 2018 that you feel good about, that if it had been a goal, it would be a five? Something of note? I don’t know how you even rank that. I’m just trying to dig in to figure out is there anything there?
Mike: Like was 2018 a complete loss or were things you actually proud of?
Rob: Kind of, yeah. I mean, I just kind of digging into it because this sucks and there’s gonna be someone listening to this who thinks, “Oh, Mike should’ve sucked it up, accomplish stuff anyway, and push forward,” and then there are the majority of people I’m guessing are going to be like, “Wow, that totally sucks. I hope that never happens to me. I hope I never feel that way.” And then there are going to be people who like, “I’ve been through that.”
Whether it’s sleep issue, whether it’s your neck and back hurting so much that you can only work two hours a day, which has happened to me, whether some people get vertigo really bad so they get super dizzy, some people get depression, they get ADHD, there are all these debilitating things. They can be physical, they can be mental, they can be whatever, but it happens to a good chunk of us. Maybe not for a whole year in us since you’re saying on and off for a couple of years but I just think there’s a lot to think about with that. In terms of staying healthy, I think it’s probably the big takeaway, perhaps.
Mike: Yeah. The two things that I can point to is, the first one is the accomplishment, the scholarship program that I got, going last year at MicroConf. I think that, that was a good start and this year’s trying to take it to the next level. We’ll see how that goes but it was more about experimenting and trying to figure out what’s going to work, what’s not, and help work with the sponsors, figure out what works for them as well. I think that we did well with that.
Rob: I would agree with that and you basically spearheaded that and put in a bunch of time. That was something that was a little mini startup within MicroConf and I’m glad you called that out because that was something you did that was really cool. I think something else you may not call this up but you kind of crushed it on sponsorships this year with both the conferences so I would call that as a win for you. It’s weird to put a goal in there of like, “I want to increase sponsorships by X, Y, and Z,” because it’s more relevant to us, it’s an internal thing, and I don’t know that it’s that interesting to folks outside, but it is something you put time into and had success with.
Mike: Yeah but even the sponsorships themselves, they help us make Starter Edition possible because we, too, subsidize Starter Edition out from Growth Edition to some extent, and we have to because it costs the same to run both of the conferences. The stuff that we do there has a direct impact on Started Edition, which has a direct impact on people who are getting started with entrepreneurship and softwares. I think that all ties together is like a general kind of goal or direction that we both kind of always as long as this podcast has been going. But yeah, it’s a good thing to call those out. But I don’t know as I would probably have put those in exclusively as goals.
The only other thing I would say is, and I wouldn’t even call this a goal again, but I’ve started getting out with a group of friends here once a week and actually having some social contact outside of my office. It’s weird to say that because I don’t have an office that I go to. I don’t have employees or people that I meet with on a regular basis. I barely have any contractors at this point. It’s really just me, working on most stuff.
Like my social contacts, outside of my house is extremely limited. One of the things that I was trying to do is figure out in terms of the mood and you kind of talked about, if you don’t get sleep, you kind of feel depressed and why am I working on this and things aren’t working and you’re very pessimistic. I felt like that for a very long time because I wasn’t getting sleep. One of the things I tried to do was say, “Okay, well what can I do to fight this?” and one of them was getting out and be more social with people. So I kind of established that, Dungeons and Dragons group, then meeting with them on a weekly basis. Honestly, it was quite helpful but even now after getting sleep, it’s even more helpful because it’s not just me looking forward to it every week but everybody else is as well.
Rob: That makes sense. So some good things did come out of 2018 is what you’re saying.
Mike: Yeah, some, but I don’t know. I’m hoping 2019 will be substantially better.
Rob: Yeah. Sounds like a rough year. Looking at my 2018 goals, looks like I had three of them. One was to be in fewer meetings under 10 hours a week. You and I laughed, chuckled about this a few months back because the reason I was into so much meetings is because I was at fast-growing startup that was growing from, I don’t know, it was 20 or 30 people and it went up to 60-70 by the time I was leaving and that just requires a bunch of meetings to keep everybody apprised of what’s going on and all that. I was running a big team and non-senior leadership and there’s just a lot of stuff required with that.
When I left Drip in April, basically my meetings went to zero. We did this in November or December of last year so I didn’t have knowledge I was going to be leaving in April but I did achieve this in a way that I probably didn’t expect. I think the way I wanted to achieve it or would have thought about in November-December was to stay at the job but just change it so I was in fewer meetings but it turns out that leaving the job also did the trick. Frankly, my life’s been better for it, being in fewer meetings, that is.
Mike: Yeah. Add in six plus months of zero meetings a week, it tends to bring that average put down pretty far.
Rob: Yeah, I know. I am so much more chill and just content taking time off like this is something I’ve never done and it’s worth it.
My next goal was three days of exercise each week and so fewer meetings, but I give myself a five, a few days of exercise, I’m going to give myself a four. I basically crushed this goal from January until it got cold. I crushed it during last winter and then all through summer I was out doing stuff, I was riding my bike. Everything was built into my day and I was doing it.
Then it was probably around October, just a couple of months ago, that it got cold. We started homeschooling one of our kids and Tiny Seed started picking up. But what I let go was exercise and it’s what I always do and it’s always my lowest priority. So I did it for maybe 9 or 10 months of the year and there were weeks where I had five days of exercise. Way more than I even need in my opinion. Healthy by nature just by genetics or whatever. Even getting in three days of 20 or 30 minutes pop is enough. Mostly achieved, and I think it’s something that I want to certainly get back on the wagon here and the next few weeks as winter continues to bare down on us.
My last goal for 2018 and this one’s interesting. Let me read this whole thing. To ship something in 2018. Not sure what it’s going to be, yet. But I’ve been laying low for 18 months, 2017 was supposed to be a rest year and it was a hard year. First part of 2018 is going to continue to be rest but I need to start shipping, either consistent blog posts, a book, a new podcast, a course, software, something, and what is that something like?
Mike: I assume that that would be Tiny Seed.
Rob: It is and in 2017 November, I had no idea that that’s what I’d be doing. It’s interesting that it’s like knowing yourself. I figured I was going to need to do something and then I actually frankly started working on a book after I left Drip in April. I did write maybe 12,000-13,000 words, which is about a quarter of a book, 20%-25% of worth from a book. I did do that and then I eventually just slowed down on it and lost some interest and decided I just didn’t want to force it. There’s also that that’s in play and could feasibly come out sometime.
That’s what I had and I don’t know with me if goals are self-fulfilling prophecies or I make goals that I secretly, way in the back of my subconscious, know that I will achieve or something. This one strikes me as weird, honestly, because I remember the mindset I had at the time and I genuinely had no idea what I was going to do. I just know that I needed to put something out into the world and that something obviously has become Tiny Seed.
Mike: I think that generally, your goals tend to be, I wouldn’t necessarily call them self-fulfilling prophecies but more along the lines of you have this inkling in your head and in your subconscious that you know what direction you want to go or need to go but you’re not quite sure how you’re going to get there, and during our goals episode you put something down that has kind of surfaced but you’re not always certain of the specifics. But by the end of the year, something has solidified or something has come about.
For example, your fewer meetings. You probably weren’t thinking, “Oh, I’m going to leave Leadpages,” but at the end of the day, that was one of the ways that that came about. Maybe that partly influenced your decision because you wanted to have fewer meetings. And then the same thing with shipping something. That kind of goes back to leaving Leadpages as well but Tiny Seed kind of came out of that. You knew in the back of your mind, “I want to do something, not sure what that looks like.” I think your goals on a yearly basis tend to reflect that.
Rob: Yeah. That’s good insight. I also feel like I’m pretty methodical and I kind of know when it’s push year and maybe a rest year. I don’t know. I haven’t had many rest years per se but I don’t know. As we started Drip, I knew 2013 the goal had to be launch it and grow it to X, and then 2014, 2015, and 2016 at the beginning of them, I did make revenue goals for the end of the year.
This is an interesting conversation, actually, because some people don’t like goals, or they don’t believe in them, or they say they’re not worthwhile, or they say that they don’t fit them, they’re like, “Oh, how can you possibly plan 12 months out?” Maybe that’s a personality thing but I have had set goals for myself frankly since back in high school with Running Track.
I had goals to hit certain times at certain by certain meets or to make the state meet or whatever, and that to me was a motivator to strive to do that. I had goals to write certain amounts of things and then when I started blogging and started becoming a professional, I had a goal to make this much money by the time I was this old. I don’t know. I’ve been a goal to reverse it so maybe these goals fit my personality and am not something that everyone necessarily needs.
What I find is interesting is my wife, Sherry’s personality is quite a bit different than mine. But when she goes on a retreat, she also sets at least some, I don’t know if she calls them goals, but there’s things that she’s striving to do and she looks ahead a year and says, what are some things that I want to get done? Now I would call those goals but maybe you could call them a mind map. You could call them something different but it still is something and it may not have an exact time frame, it may not be, I want to make exactly this much money from this thing but it’s like I know that I need to kind of do this.
That’s how we do these episodes. I think we should probably call that out. Do you feel the same way? Are you a goal-driven person and does having goals, you think it helps you? Or do you think it’s a waste of time, I guess, to have these?
Mike: I’m definitely driven by goals but I feel like the further out those goals are, it’s harder for me to really conceptualize the entire path getting there, and unless I sit down and kind of do all the planning work of saying, “This is what it’s gonna take to get here. This is what’s it’s going to take to get here.” Unless I kind of do that whole process, I’m probably less likely to reach the end goal because I don’t necessarily have a map to follow. Part of having that map to follow it’s fun for me to build that but once I figure out the answer to a particular problem, I am not always the best at following through and actually implementing it.
That’s more of a personality thing than anything else but I can definitely buckle down and get things done, but it depends on kind of what is and what my interest level is. If there is a goal that I put down and I know exactly how to get there, if the hardest part is figuring out how to get there, then I probably weight less likely to actually do it.
Rob: Yeah. That makes sense and I think, to be honest, there were times when, I think back seven, eight, nine years ago for me, it was really hard to look ahead a year because I just didn’t know. These were years where I decided to write a book and wrote it in three months. There was no inclination that I was going to write a book that year. I just decided this is a new thing and I’m going to move on to it. We decided to launch MicroConf into that pretty quick and launched a podcast.
Those years, I think, if I had goals that I wrote down, probably completely went off the rails. But I was okay with that. There was a lot of stuff in flux in terms of my professional career and I was trying to figure stuff out and it’s not like I nailed these goals to my door and I could only do them when I etched them in cement and I could not veer from them. I veered from them because it was a better decision at the time.
What I find with goals I set now like we’re going to talk about in these episodes, these are a way for me to focus because I think most of us are presented with way more opportunities than we could possibly pursue and way more “good” ideas than we could ever implement, some of them good, some not. Having goals is at least some bumpers to keep me in a lane so that I don’t look around at every email I get offering for me to do this thing or this opportunity or whatever, and say, “Oh, of course that sounds like fun. I should do that.” But I come back to these goals and say, “Yeah, these are things that I really wanted to do and they made sense when I really thought about them,” and unless something amazing comes along that just blows my mind, I’m going to kind of stay on this track for this year and see things through.
I think that not having goals can lead to a shorter term perspective because again, shiny object syndrome. Opportunities come up so frequently that can be just derail you and you can get to the end of the year and be like, “What did I do the last 12 months?”
Mike: Yeah. It’s giving yourself permission to say no to things. There’s that idea that unless it’s a “Hell, yes,” it should be a no. But you’re right. There’s just so many things that we could do. It’s more about what do you want to do if you had all the time and resources in the world? But you only have so much time see in your lifetime to do anything.
It’s hard to figure out for each individual, I think. If you’ve got this unlimited list of options, what is it that you want to achieve? What are you going to be proud of? Eventually, you’re going to be gone and what do you have left behind?
Rob: Yeah. It’s an interesting thing to think about. It’s like a legacy. If you look at legacy and say, “All right. Mike, in 20 years, you and I will be in our 60s. We could still work, we’re still going to do stuff. But are our best days of accomplishment behind us?” This is a rhetorical question. We don’t have time to answer it here but do you have goals? Or a goal of when you look back, when you’re in your 60s or 70s, would you want to think, “Yeah, I did that.”
I think each of us should if we don’t. And how are we going to get there if we haven’t set some goals along the way? Do we just kind of wander our way and make it and in the end we’re like, “Hey, I’m glad all of that worked out.” Or does it have to be a deliberate decision every week, month, year to kind of make progress towards something bigger?
Mike: Yeah, but I don’t think you’ve always know what that’s going to be 20 years in advance. I mean, it’s hard to know what’s going to work and what’s not as you’re moving forward, and some things you’re going to do and be very proud of them. But in the grand scheme of things, they may be meaningless to, I will say, the greater world but to you, they meant something.
I think looking back, you’re going to want to have those things that meant something to you and yes, it would be really nice to have legacy where other people recognize the accomplishments that you’ve had. But at the end of the day, did you live the life that you’ve wanted to live?
Rob: That’s almost a great way to end this episode except for we haven’t covered our 2019 goals yet.
Mike: Damn you.
Rob: I know. I’m glad we talked to that through because I think the whole goals conversation is kind of been on my mind recently or every year or so, it just comes on my radar of why do we set these and what does all these mean? Maybe a separate episode we talk about legacy but for now, shall we dive into 2019 goals? Looks like you have two of them with multiple sub-parts. It’s like a tax. You’re like you’re an IRS document. One part D is, yeah. You let this roll into it.
Mike: All right. The two goals that I have for 2019, the first one is really just get my health back on track. With goals you really want to have some sort of definition around exactly what that goal means, so for me it means basically four different things. One of them is exercising, the second one is getting a regular sleep schedule going, and then the third one is losing some weight because I’ve put on probably about 25-30 pounds or so in the past couple of years, and it’s more because just lack of sleep and everything else is going into it.
Then the fourth one is regular in-person social contact, which I’ve got partially down at this point, I think, but think I probably need to expand that a little bit. Exercise a certain number of times a week. I wanted to get to it at least twice a week, and then the normal sleep schedule, I really need to be getting at least 6½-7 hours of sleep every night. Previously it was only maybe 4-5 on average, I think. Then obviously losing weight. I’d say 15 pounds to kind of start with for this coming year. Then regular in-person social contract. It’s kind of a nebulous thing, but I’ve got at least one scheduled night a week with people. Maybe I’ll go to two, but I’m not sure about that.
Rob: Yeah, that one’s tough because I don’t know that you want to commit yourself to two nights a week. It doesn’t necessarily always makes sense.
Mike: No, but I do notice that when I go to my gaming group and I come back, I tend to get a really good night of sleep that night every single time.
Rob: Interesting. Is it because you drink a lot?
Mike: I plead the fifth. It’s when I host, I don’t have to drive anywhere so that’s certainly helpful.
Rob: Less drinking disturbs your sleep, right?
Mike: Yeah, it does.
Rob: It helps you fall asleep but it doesn’t actually give you a good night sleep.
Mike: That’s true. Those are kind of the four subheadings under that first goal.
Rob: That makes sense. Let me do my first one. My first one, not surprisingly, is three days of exercise per week. It’s basically a continuation of something that I started a couple years ago, although I believe you started a whole exercise goal first, probably 3-4 years ago and eventually I was, “All right, I need to get on this.” It’s never something I’ve needed to do but I know it’s something I should do in all honesty, especially as I get older.
It’s kind of a boring goal, but it’s something that I need to have on my list or else I have no desire to do it and I will not make the time. Unless it’s written down and I know that I’m going to have to come back here and talk about it, it’s an interesting accountability thing. It’s not that I’d be terribly devastated if I came back and say, “Oh, I got a one.” I know it’s good for me, like eating my vegetables and I know that I will at least made some type of public commitment to it. For me, it’s helpful to say this as a goal.
My second goal is for Einar and I to build it into essentially the de facto brand when bootstrap has look for early-stage funding. This one is going to be tough to measure and this is where the 1-5 will help us out because I think by the end of 2019 frankly, that’s only 12 months away and it’s not a lot of time to do this.
I’m guessing this is this is a multi-year process. What I’m saying here is, I want to raise all the fund, kind of close the funding and have a batch that goes live. We get companies, they’re having success, and it’s just executing on the Tiny Seed vision. I don’t know exactly what to put to measure at the end of 12 months, but I have a feeling in my head of what I want it to be and I want it to feel successful. I want it to feel like it’s well-regarded and I want it to do right by both the founders and the investors who were involved with it. I want it to make a difference.
I feel like if we had said at the beginning of starting MicroConf, that the end of next year or the year after, we want it to be a prominent player in the conference space, which was not a foregone conclusion when we launched it by any stretch. That did happen. It didn’t probably happen in the first year. It took us a couple of years to get there but we knew it when we saw it. Once it happened, it was like, “Oh yeah. MicroConf is a thing now.”
That’s how I want. I want Tiny Seed to be a thing. That’s my long way of saying 2019 for me is definitely the year of Tiny Seed.
Mike: Yeah. I think for this one, I agree that for the way you kind of phrased it here is for it to be the de facto brand when bootstrappers are looking for early-stage funding. That is in and of itself as kind of a multi-year goal, but I think you could probably narrow that down a little bit to say you’ve got the first batch of people going through, however big that batch happen to be. Maybe you put goals around it, maybe you don’t, but at the end of the year, I think that you want to see that whoever has gone through that batch, has a reasonable looking chances for success based on where they started.
The exact definition of that is not going to be determinable right now, but you’re going to kind of know it when you see it six, eight, ten months afterwards. Maybe they’re at that point by the end of the year, maybe they’re not. It depends on kind of when you start that batch and get them started through the process, because if you start in January, then obviously you’ve got a lot more time than if you started in next October.
Rob: Yup. I made a note there, first batch of founders are in the batch and they have a good chance of success. I mean, in the back of my head, I really want this stuff to start moving in Q1, which is January, February, March, so we’ll see how close we can align to that, but it should give us a good chunk of the year to get people moving.
Mike: My second goal I have here on the list is specifically related to Blue Tech. First one is just getting my health back on track and then the second one is to establish some sort of traction for it or move on to something else. Maybe that sounds like a major shift, but at the same time I feel like with the focus starting to coming back to me and clarity and getting sleep, things need to move in a good direction or it’s just going to be meandering. If it’s still meandering at the end of next year, then chances are good that either I’m not committed to it or there’s something else going on.
Quite frankly, I just don’t want to be in a position where I’m making excuses at the end of next year. It’s got to move or not. If not, then fine. I don’t want that to happen but at the same time, as I said, I just don’t want to be in this position next year where I have to justify kind of what happened.
Rob: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. I think it will be a tough decision. A lot of work easier to try to push it forward and then evaluate that.
Mike: Yeah. I don’t know exactly what the target is for that. I’m kind of fuzzy on what it means. Is it a revenue target? Is it customer base if I get to X-1 customers I plan to get to X? Do I kill things? I don’t think that’s really applicable. Did things shift substantially now that I feel like I’m able to focus or am I still in that position? Do I still feel like I’m not able to focus on it? If that’s the case then made it’s a motivation issue and maybe I’m just not really interested in it. But we’ll see.
Rob: Yeah. I feel like in my head it would be finding product-market fit. Having a product with that really is easy to grow because turn is so low and when people start using it, they stay and that you’re able to add enough customers that, like you said, it becomes profitable including your time, or it’s very close to that. It’s on a trajectory to hit that within a short amount of time, I guess. That’s all still amorphous but that’s what I think in my head it probably looks like.
Mike: Yeah, but that’s what I said, establish some sort of traction with it like the MU site trajectory and I think that’s exactly the same thing. Does it to appear to be on the right path, and you may not know exactly what that is right now but afterwards, you kind of know whether there’s a good difference between where it’s sat now versus where it is at that time.
Rob: Yeah. My last two goals. Again, my first one is three days of exercise a week, second one was about Tiny Seed, and my third one is do not panic when the stock market crashes. This is one of our predictions that we have every year. There’s going to be this correction or whatever.
Mike: Did you panic last week or the week before when the stock market dropped like 1000 points in a week?
Rob: Nah. I didn’t at all. No.
Rob: Maybe this is an easy one. I mean, I kind of pay attention to it but I’m also so diversified and I don’t have so much in stocks that it matters. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just not going to panic. Maybe this is not a big one for me. But I’ve just been thinking about it. In 2008 when it all went down, I sold stock after it had gone down and it’s a complete rookie mistake that everyone makes. The reason that the mainstream investor, the reason that their returns don’t match a simple index fund is because people do that and they panic.
I’m in a way different mental position and a way different financial position this time. My hope is that no matter how bad it gets, I’m just kind of like, “Yeah, whatever. I don’t need to sell stock this point, to do anything and that that I’m able to just ride this out.” That’s how you’re going to do it. So I’m at the bottom is certainly not going to do it for you.
My last goal for 2019 is one that I want to do, I hope to do, but it will be the first to go if all of my focus is required to do what we need with Tiny Seed. This fourth goal is to either write or rewrite a book. By write I mean finish and publish, get something live. I continue to get feedback in a positive way.
There was a Hacker News thread when we announced Tiny Seed in October that went pretty bad. It was on the homepage for a day or something and it was crazy. Got a bunch of good conversation and comments around that. Part of that was like, “Hey, this is from the guy who wrote Start Small, Stay Small,” and someone like “Oh that would be great if we rewrote that,” something like that. That single heat, if he updated it for a second edition. That comment got upvoted 26 times or something and most comments get a couple upvotes. Then I chimed in like, “No, this is actually good feedback for me.” I know I hear this now and again but it is something that sold enough copies and that the mental or the high-level things in it are still applicable but kind of the tactics and a lot of the boots on the ground stuff has changed since 2010, in the last eight years.
It makes me really think about going back to that manuscript. I do have a different take, and I do have so much better examples, and I do have entire topics that I talk about now that are just not in a box. That would it be a lot less work to rewrite or not even rewrite. It’s like update, a second edition, basically, and expanded.
I think I would like to get that done and the nice part is it’s not a side thing or it’s like, “Oh, I need to steal time away from Tiny Seed.” It could be in service of that because a launch of another book and getting that into the hands of a bunch of new entrepreneurs or even founders who have read the old one, it continues to promote the idea of bootstrapping. It continues to push behind my brand and my brand is obviously attached to the Tiny Seed brand. I think it could be in service of my other goal, which is to grow Tiny Seed in prominence and respect.
Mike: There’s ways to cheat here a little bit was for me to take your old conference talks and have them transcribed and then put those in the book.
Rob: That’s a great idea. Obviously, it wouldn’t be just transcriptions. I would want to clean it up and stuff. There’s still some content in the Micropreneur Academy that I think never saw the light of day outside of the academy that I think could be modified and updated. Not like nuts and bolts, here’s how, and what to click in the Facebook interface but there’s still some kind of philosophical and high-level stuff that’s in there that I wrote. I can see that being a tractor that I didn’t put in the first one because either it wasn’t relevant or just cause I didn’t.
That’s the thing is to your point, there’s been so much content that we’ve kicked out on the podcast conference talks or through other means. Even that when I started writing the Drip book, the book I’m sort of writing this year, where I was kind of writing the story of Drip but then I started realizing there were these takeaways and there were mistakes and there were things I did right. Those are kind of essay right now and I could pull pieces of those into it. I think you and I get together every week and we talk for 30-40 minutes. We generate a lot of content that could be pulled from.
Mike: Yeah, for sure. I think we are about out of time for the goal episode. It went quite a bit longer than I had expected but good things, good takeaways for you?
Rob: Yeah, I think so. It was a good discussion and can kind of going to get these solidified. We’ll see. We should check-in in three or four months and see where we are.
Mike: Cool. Well, I think that wraps us up. If you have a question for us, you can call into our voicemail number 1-888-801-9690 or you can email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Outta Control by MoOt, used under creative commons. Subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for startups and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript to each episode. Thanks for listening, we’ll see you next time.
In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike do their annual goals episode. They revisit goals from 2017 and rate how they did as well as look ahead at goals for 2018.
Items mentioned in this episode:
Mike: In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and I are going to be talking about our goals for 2018. This is Startups For The Rest Of Us Episode 372. Welcome to Startups For the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers, and entrepreneurs be awesome at building, launching, and growing software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.
Rob: And I’m Rob.
Mike: We’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s going on this week, Rob?
Rob: Well, when this episode airs, I will be with my family in sunny Florida. We’re planning to hit Legoland and spend a few days at the beach. It’s gonna be a nice time to kind of warm up a bit. It’s supposed to be highs in the single digits here in Minneapolis during that week, so it’s nice to get out away from it, get warm. We actually enjoy Legoland a lot, not just our kids, but I don’t know if you’ve been there, but I enjoy it even as an adult.
Mike: Yeah, I haven’t been to Legoland. We’ve gone to Florida a couple of times for Disney World but I haven’t gone to Legoland yet.
Rob: Yeah, I like it more than the Disney stuff. Less hectic, it’s a little bit less expensive and it’s more building things rather than kind of idolizing characters. I mean there are characters in it but they’re so much about creating things and being constructive. I think that resonates with me as a maker and with our kids as well. Like I said, it’s lower key, there are some rides in there and there’s stuff to do but it’s not like volumed turned up to 11 like I feel – a lot less crowded – I feel Disney is.
Mike: Yeah. The other thing I found with Disney is, like you said, it’s very crowded but also getting to everything is just rather difficult. You kind of have to hone in on the things that you want to do and you’re gonna end up waiting for pretty much anything anyways.
Rob: Right. The park’s so big. The parks are separated. On and on, we had never been to Disney World. We went last year, and I was kinda like, “Yeah, I don’t know if we’re gonna come back. That may be the last time.” Disneyland is fine, it’s a lot smaller but it’s still crowded, and you have the long lines. Legoland, to me, is much more calming and relaxing experience. How about you? What’s going on?
Mike: Well, over the last 20 days, because we’re recording it’s the 21st of December right now, but I’ve had 20 Scotch Whiskeys for my advent calendar. So far, the Glenfarclas and the Peat’s Beast have been the best ones so far, but there’s several other runner ups that are pretty good, been a lot of fun. Interesting so far. There’s some of them that I actually really did not like but most of them I would say, are middle of the road and then there’s a couple that I really liked, and then there’s a couple that I really just did not like.
Rob: That’s super cool. You wake up every morning and have that with your cereal?
Mike: I put it in my cereal.
Rob: That’s awesome, yeah.
Mike: No, I usually have it at the end of the day.
Rob: Yeah, that makes sense. Other update for me, I’m listening to the book by Tim O’Reilly. It’s called WTF?: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us. I’m kinda struggling with it. I thought it would blow my mind and so far, I feel mired in kind of theory or just academic thought and I’m hoping that it picks up because I like Tim O’Reilly. I like his writing, he’s a futurist, he sees things before they happen. He’s the guy that named Web 2.0 because he saw what the movement that was happening. I know there’s good stuff in here but I’m about maybe a fifth of the way, maybe 15%, 20% of the way through the book. I’m kinda struggling with it so I’m hoping it gets better because I really wanna make it through. I don’t wanna quit the book.
Mike: Are you listening to the audio book?
Rob: I am, yep.
Mike: I’m surprised that the audiobook is not as, I’ll say, riveting. I mean, business books are not riveting to begin with. But it’s interesting that even the audio book, you think that the pace will be pretty good and it’s not, it sounds like.
Rob: I’m 1.5, no, I think, I’m actually 2X it too. I think a small part of it could be that I was listening to it while I was shoveling, moving some snow out of the driveway. I don’t know. I was paying attention to it but maybe not enough. It’s one of those things where I’m questioning just cause I know how sharp Tim O’Reilly is and how much of his writings have…. Kinda like is it me or is it this book, is the question I’ve been asking. I’ll try to remember to update folks once I’m all done with kind of a final verdict.
Mike: Got it. The only other thing that’s going on for me at the moment is I’m working on a scholarship program for MicroConf Starter Edition. If you’re listening to this and you’re interested in becoming a sponsor for a scholarship ticket or if your company’s interested in just sponsoring MicroConf, drop me an email email@example.com and we’ll talk about it. I’m just kinda hacking things together this year. But trying to put something together in place that we’ll be able to kind of reuse moving forward and make things better year over year.
Rob: Yeah, because sponsoring a scholarship is a big deal. It makes an impact on someone who typically can’t otherwise afford to go. We’ve had several people do this now to great success. We can get some people coming to MicroConf who, I think, really get a lot of value out of it but are just early enough in their entrepreneurial journey that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to make it.
Mike: Yeah. We’ve been doing scholarships for probably the past four, five years, I think, at this point. But it’s always been on a very small scale. This is kind of a concerted effort to take things to the next level and not just involve the people who approach us or just hand out scholarships on their own but to involve corporate sponsors and kind of expand the reach of the program a little bit more formalized, I don’t know. I think it’ll turn out to be really interesting. It’s just a matter of how is this actually going to work. There’s a lot of logistics to kind of straighten out. I had a lot of good conversations with people and answer some, I’d say, some difficult questions so far. It’s looking good so far.
Rob: Awesome. What are we talking about today?
Mike: Well, today, we’re gonna be going through our goals for 2018 and to kick us off, we should probably talk about our goals that we set back in episode 318 for our 2017, and see how we did on those.
Rob: Right. Every year we like to do our goals episode where we visit the old ones, look ahead at the next year, and then we also do our predictions episode which we did a couple of weeks ago. How about you? What is your first goal for 2017?
Mike: Well, my first one was to log at least 100 days of exercise this year. I would say that – are we giving ourselves points like one out of five or one of out four on these?
Rob: Seems like one to five scale.
Mike: I would say on this one, I’d probably have to give myself about, I’d say I’d go with a three. I logged about 50 days worth of exercise, and if you remember, I had a partial tear on my rotator cuff, basically four months of that, I just really couldn’t go to the gym. Between my back and my shoulder, there was just no way I was gonna be doing anything. Even with that I still got to 50.
Rob: Good for you.
Mike: How about you? What’s your first one?
Rob: My first one was to not start any new projects in 2017. It was to run the three MicroConfs with you, to continue shipping the two podcasts that I do, to continue working on Drip and to just take a break from the chaos that have been my life when I set this goal, the acquisition had only closed five months or later. I was still reeling from that, looking ahead at 2017 as basically like a rest year or recovery year from just the hard work and the stress and the chaos of growing Drip and then through the acquisition.
I had one exception that I indicated was that I would consider being second author on the Zen Founder book which is now launching very soon. If you go to zenfounder.com/book, you’ll see a landing page there, and you can get on the launch list. It’s turned up really well. It’s called The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Your Shit Together, How To Run Your Business Without Letting It Run You. Sherry did the vast majority of the work but I was involved with writing some copy in it and then contributing a few stories to the book.
I, on this one, give myself a five out of five. That’s not too hard given that part of this was a non-goal that I didn’t want my perpetual restlessness push me into starting something new. But I feel like I did accomplish this just like I set out to do.
Mike: Awesome. My second goal was to make Bluetick profitable including my time. Let’s see here, if I had to give myself a grade on this one, I’d probably give it a two out of five. I definitely did not make it profitable including my time but it is profitable. I feel like there’s at least some level of credit there especially given that it started at basically zero for MRR at the beginning of the year.
Did that public launch back in August to September timeframe, spent the last couple of months working out issue with getting people onboarded and working out various, I’ll say, problems associated with the onboarding process and getting people connected and making it so that they get that value upfront as opposed to much further down the road. I still don’t feel like it’s at a level of like three or four because I just don’t think that I got far enough.
Rob: My second goal was to do one to three angel investments and I give myself a five on this. I was trying to remember exactly how many, but I think, I did three. Yeah, I did three. A couple of them were subsequent, follow-up rounds in existing startups that I’m invested in. Then, there’s at least one new one. I think I kind of accomplished this and it was fun.
I think I don’t have this as a goal for 2018 not because I don’t wanna continue doing investments but I kinda wanna be pretty choosy. I always have been pretty choosy about the businesses that I invest in. I’m kind of just taking them as they show up on the radar. If I hear about them at MicroConf or hear about them on a podcast or someone approaches me. I think it makes a lot of sense for me to do it but I’m not going out seeking. It’s not like some active goal anymore I have.
I think it’s 11 angel investments that I’ve done so it’s not an inconsequential number. I think two or three of those are already out of business which is how it should be. But yeah, I’ve really enjoyed the angel investment and to be honest the best part is that I’m able to live vicariously. I’m still involved in a startup and I can still talk to the founder and I can offer advice. I can be involved in this business but I don’t have to run it day-to-day. That’s been the fun part of it.
Mike: My third goal was to blog publicly at least every two weeks so it’s a total of 26 blog posts. If you recall, I think about three or four months into the year, we’ve gotten together and we kind of pointed out like, “Hey, this is probably not realistic.” Because I haven’t done it so far and it wasn’t something that was really going to make me towards my main goal which was really making Bluetick profitable. We essentially canned that but then in August or September when I did that launch, I did a 21-day video series. That right there is pretty close to having that completed even though I basically canned it several months before. Should I give myself a five on this or are we not just not gonna count it?
Rob: I don’t know. It’s kinda like a ‘not applicable’. Goals changed a few months in. I remember when you first mentioned this I was like, “Really? Are you sure you wanna commit to this?” Then a few months in it was like, “You need to focus on Bluetick. The revenue source.”
My next goal was two days of exercise per week. I definitely accomplished this especially once I learned, through Sherry actually, I learned about the High Intense – Is it High Intensity Interval Training, HIIT? It’s just what I always struggle with is I don’t have a lot of time and I often don’t have the extra time to gear up and run out to the lake and run back because kids are here in the house and I’m watching them. There’s just complexity with me being able to work out. The fact that I can throw on a YouTube video and just get my heart rate way up and be exhausted in 10 or 15 minutes in my own house while my kids are playing legos upstairs, it really changed the game for me.
In addition, I was also riding my bike to and from work three days a week which is five, six miles each way, it’s was a great 22-minute workout each way. Pretty much hit this with flying colors, exceeded it actually, so I give myself a five here. I had many weeks where it was three and four days of exercise per week. I competed for nine years in track, I ran the hurdles, and I competed against people who went to the Olympic trials. We were legit. I trained 30+ hours a week almost year round. Once track ended, I realized that I actually don’t like running.
It was always about the competition. It was the competition and the team that I liked. But I didn’t liked running itself so I struggled to get out there and run even though I used to run a mile warm-up, mile cool down. Then do two miles of intense 400-interval training, just stuff that you would throw up after practice, it was super intense. But exercise is not something that I have ever enjoyed doing in a non-competitive basis. This is probably the first time in a decade or more that I’m actually kinda keeping up with some type of a regimen.
Mike: I guess with that stuff in mind, why don’t we dive in to our 2018 goals? Do you wanna go first?
Rob: For sure. First goal for 2018 is to write a VR program that allows you to roll around on a mattress of Bitcoins. How did this get in here? Are you messing with my list again?
Mike: Maybe a little bit.
Rob: That’s a good one, Mike. I like this.
Mike: I had that idea when I was writing down my goals on our outline. I happened to see some advertisement for some sort of a VR Helmet or VR Goggles or something like that. I was like, “Oh, Bitcoins’ a rage right now. VR is the rage. Why not throw them together?” The part of the advertisement was also the dual-end lightsabers with the VR Helmets.
Rob: I’ll tell you what. This Bitcoin mattress thing, that could make you a thousand-aire overnight.
Mike: Yup. Definitely.
Rob: A thousand-aire idea. My first goal for 2018 may sound odd when I first say it but bear with me on this one. My goal is to be in fewer meetings each week, to get my meeting count to basically under ten hours a week. This is not a symptom of being acquired. It’s a symptom of growing the team, whether I was independent or not, I would be in a lot of conversations. I’m pivotal to a lot of decisions that happen and as the team has grown, I’m called into more and more things to lend my insights, my opinions.
I’m often brought in and I almost feel like a consultant who has knowledge of the space and knowledge of the history of Drip and ‘we wanna run this by you’ and I have another unique insight. Right now I’m in a lot of meetings, don’t enjoy them. I really think back to when we were 5, 8, 10 people, hover at any of those points and we just had so few meetings and I really enjoyed it. Parts of that was to my detriment, to be honest. I think that some of the folks who worked remote, they would’ve preferred to have more kind of Facetime but just the way that we’re running Drip was be heads down and create the product.
I’m working to get some things in place to decrease the number of meetings I’m in right now. I don’t think they’re gonna take hold for a couple of months, part of it is hiring someone. I’ve already hired a senior director of product who started maybe three months ago who’s taken a bunch of responsibilities off my plate. I’m looking to just kind of fire myself from other positions that require me to spend a lot of time in conference rooms.
Mike: On my side, I actually have two carry over for goals that I wanna put on there. First is log in 100 days of exercise this coming year and then, the second one is making Bluetick profitable including my time. Those I definitely wanna carry over. In addition to that, my first goal is to read at least one business book every two weeks. I think this is more of to kind of get back involved in learning things because, I feel like I’ve stagnated to some extent.
I’ve had my head down for so long on various things that I’ve probably kinda lost touch a little bit with a lot of either things other people are exploring and obviously I don’t have the time to do everything myself so I think that just finding time to carve out, to explore ideas from other people would be helpful to me, not just from a personal growth standpoint but also in helping to grow Bluetick.
Rob: That’s interesting if you have some particular topics or a particular topic that you kinda wanna start with, let me know because I have literally this list I went to where I read hundreds of business books in the past 20 years and especially recently I just do a lot of Audible. If you have specific things you’re looking for, I can certainly make recommendations. I suppose you could also ask our listeners here if you have a suggestion of a good business book that you’ve read in the past 12-24 months, maybe send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we may even mention it on the show.
My second goal is three days of exercise per week. It’s just upping the game from last year to the level that I’m at now. Like I said, I think with the fact that it’s pretty convenient for me to do right now, I’m hoping, kind of crossing my fingers, that I’m not cursing myself by upping the goal. I do have a tendency to achieve a goal, and then increase it the next time, and eventually make it too much, more than I wanna commit to or whatever, and then I just say, “Ahh, I’m gonna stop exercise altogether because I’m not achieving it.” My goal’s to not do that.
Mike: My second goal is to hire somebody to take over Bluetick development. The downside of this when I think is that it really is heavily contingent upon making Bluetick profitable including my time. Because, unless I get to that point, it’d be really hard to hire somebody. But I also recognize that doing the development for it is just so incredibly time-consuming, and it’s not just the time itself but it’s the mental energy associated with it because there’s all these little things that you kind of have to keep in your head. When I switch over to do other things, it’s really difficult to focus on them or concentrate on them. Even when I’m able to do that, if I have to go back to the development side of things, I’m really almost starting over again because of all the different things that I had in my head at that time.
I’ve noticed this with a couple of different major pieces that I’ve been working on where I had to go back and kind of relearn how certain things work. I struggle to do that just because sometimes so much has passed between when I stopped working on that piece and when I started working on it again. I think that just having somebody dedicated to working on the development side of things is really gonna help out.
Rob: Just as you make Bluetick profitable, you’re going to make it not profitable again by hiring someone?
Mike: Yeah. That’s kinda what I’m thinking.
Rob: Such is life as a founder. I think getting the development off your plate will be a huge win for you this year. It would allow you to focus on the things that frankly you should be focusing on more. It’s like development is, what’s funny is, we come up as developers, and we wanna build products, and then when you get to the point where you’re building it you’ll realize, “Ha, development is not, a, not the most important thing, and b, it’s not driving revenue the way that so many other things will.” That’s obviously where you find yourself.
Mike: Yeah. That’s really the problem is that there’s so much development work to get done but it doesn’t directly drive revenue. I can definitely see when, different periods of time, where I pull the focus off of marketing and go into development and I could see the revenue growth level off or decline. That’s just what’s going to happen because I can’t do both at the same time because it’s really hard.
Rob: My third and final goal for 2018 is to ship something. I’m not exactly sure what it’s gonna be yet but I’ve been laying low for 18 months like I said. 2017 was supposed to be a rest year to recover and 2017 was not a rest year on the personal side. Number of health issues, and extended family, the chaos with two new kids joining the family a few months ago. You can go listen to zenfounder.com if you want all the details of what went on there.
But it was a very hard year so I don’t actually feel rested yet. I don’t feel like shipping anything now. I plan for the first part of 2018 to hopefully continue to be a restful period because it has now for about four weeks. It’s been pretty calm and I’m starting to feel a little more relaxed and I know that once I do that kind of clear the mind, that I’ll start to think about something that I wanna ship about.
I don’t know if it’s gonna be consistent blog posts, if it’s gonna be a book, if it’s gonna be a new podcast, if it’s gonna be a course of some kind, or a software, or something. I really doubt it’s gonna be software just because I keep saying that Drip was my last one and I still think that’s true. I’m guessing it’s gonna be one of these other things or maybe it’ll take a form that’s completely different, but that’s my goal. Ship something in 2018 aside from the three conferences, the two podcasts, and a bunch of…
Mike: Partridge and a pear tree.
Mike: Well, you like to fiddle with stuff too. I can definitely see you just diving into stuff to kind of try and figure things out and then suddenly a product kinda springs out of it. I can see that happening too.
Rob: Yup. I can totally see that. I’ve been fiddling with stuff for months. No product ideas yet or no desire but I do feel like that could happen. I also, to be honest, as I’m doing more investments, and asset allocation, and even dealing with collectible stuff like comic books and such. I’m running across websites where I’m like, “Ahh, I should probably just own this website because I could do it so much better.” I would improve this, and this, and that. It’s profitable and there’s a revenue stream I want. It’s pretty old and they’re not maintaining it. That’s where my mind gets going.
It’s like boy, maybe shipping something actually means acquiring and rehabbing something that I’m kind of doing for a hobby/investing. But it’s in a space where I also have a personal interest and it wouldn’t be to acquire it and rehab it to turn it into some huge money-making thing although that would be an element of it, but it would be because I also actually enjoy, like you said, tinkering with things. I would definitely include something like that, buying a little tool on the side and improving it, shipping something because it would be quite a bit of focused effort to get that done.
Mike: Yeah, because it would be easier to acquire something and then either repurpose it or grow it as opposed to building something from scratch. I could definitely see you go down that road instead.
Rob: For sure.
Mike: My last goal for this coming year is to speak at six or more conferences or events this coming year. This is more of a personal growth side of things because I know I enjoy speaking but I also feel like it’s an area where I could do better at and I think that just practicing more is gonna help me do that. Then the other side of it is to help me to focus my communication a little bit better.
There are certain times where I could just be long-winded or over communicate. Some of that is just a matter of me wanting to make sure that somebody else has all the facts but over communication is something of a detriment sometimes just because then it leads into providing facts that are irrelevant or not important to the person that I’m speaking to. I think that doing the additional conference talks will help me to focus in just my ability to hone the message based on who I’m talking to and just writing talks in general helps you to do that.
Rob: Are you gonna cheat and speak at both Starter and Growth and Europe so that three of them are knocked out by your own conferences?
Mike: Well, that’s a good idea.
Rob: Because the hard part is, well, one of the hard parts is just getting noticed and getting on the docket of conferences. Writing the talks is also a lot of effort but you’ve done that enough. That’s cool.
Mike: I only have two scheduled so far at the moment. I hadn’t really thought about kinda cheating that part.
Rob: I know, I know. That’d be pushing it. If you’re out there and you’re interested in Mike speaking at your conference, drop us a line at email@example.com.
I think that’s a pretty cool goal, man. I know that I’ve done this in the past where I’ve spoke a lot in one year and it really does condense your learning and it kinda gets you over the plateau of, I think if you speak once a year or twice a year, you just don’t get enough repetition in a short enough time frame to get better at it, I think this is a good goal if you can swing it.
I would also think about if you wanna become a become a better speaker, there’s a couple of really good books that I’ve read on how to craft talks. One is by Carmine Gallo, I think that’s how you pronounce it, it’s like The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, I’m pretty sure. He kinda talks about how Steve Jobs would craft presentations. Carmine Gallo also wrote Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, it’s kinda like how to do TED talks. I think I’ve listened to both of those. The other one I would recommend, and I am recommending these because they’re all in Audible and if you’re gonna read or obviously get physical copies of them, and if you’re gonna read 26 books, these may be some good ones that kinda kill two birds with one stone.
The other author I like is Nancy Duarte and the book that I read which may not be in Audible because it’s so visual is called Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences. She also wrote Slide:ology you may have heard of. But I really liked Resonate. It talks a lot about how to craft presentation by telling a story.
Mike: Yeah, those are great recommendations. That’s definitely an area that I’m gonna be doing research into and try to figure how to craft a better message and put together better presentations and things like that. I think you are absolutely dead on about the fact that like if you don’t do it often enough in a year, it’s very easy to kind of lose the experience and develop a little bit of rust, I’ll say.
Rob: Those are our goals for 2018. If you have a question for us, call our voicemail number at 888-801-9690 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Outta Control by MoOt used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for Startups and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening, we’ll see you next time.